A lot of people sincerely try to lose weight, get in shape and try to build muscles while consuming considerable amount of alcohol. In a previous article entitled “Alcohol’s Effects on Weight Loss”, we looked at the effects of alcohol on fat metabolism and weight loss in general. In this article lets us review the alcohol and testosterone connection.
Testosterone Exists in Both Men and Women
Testosterone is thought to be a male hormone but it exists in both genders and fulfills many functions. Women produce up to 2% of what a man would produce. It is produced in the testes of men and in the ovaries of women. In both sexes, it aids in bone and muscle development and blood cell turnover among its many functions. It also influences libido in both men and women.
Testosterone’s Role in Burning Fat and Building Muscles
Research has found that testosterone can affect fat metabolism in the following ways;
- It apparently blocks the effects of the Lipoprotein lipase enzyme. This is an enzyme that enables body’s fat cells to store fat. When fat cells are exposed to testosterone in test tubes, the activity of the lipoprotein lipase enzyme has been shown to be dramatically reduced.
- It increases fat metabolism by increasing certain key receptors on the fat cell-membrane to release fat as documented in the Journal of Metabolic Disorders.
- It has been proven to increase insulin sensitivity (Journal of Endocrine Practise) and fat metabolism via the mechanisms explained above. It also enhances growth of muscle fibers.
As such, for someone trying to lose weight and gain muscles, it is vital to maintain optimum levels of testosterone.
Alcohol and How its Metabolized
Alcohol can be categorized as a depressant drug. When consumed, about 20% is absorbed in the stomach and 80% in the small intestines. Like other depressant drugs, it slows down the pace of the brain. Approximately 90% of ingested alcohol is metabolized in the liver. The rest is excreted via breath and urine. Once the consumption stops, blood concentration of alcohol decreases slightly every time the blood passes through the liver. An average person can eliminate about 15 ml of alcohol per hour. As such, a person would need an hour to remove alcohol from a can of beer with 5% alcohol content.
In a study published in the Journal Alcohol, healthy adult men were administered a dose of alcohol and observed for a period of 48 hours. It was found that the maximum decrease in testosterone was observed at 12 hours after consuming alcohol. Testosterone levels remained dipped for a period of 24 hours there after. Simultaneously, the levels of the hormone cortisol increased and stayed elevated for as long as testosterone levels were suppressed. Similar findings were also recorded in an article published in 2009 in the Bone Journal.
Why Does Alcohol Suppress Testosterone Production
Research has shown that alcohol ;
- Increases the breakdown and removal of testosterone from the blood
- Decreases testosterone production rate
A research articles published in the New England Journal of Medicine documents this. The study was extreme as the participants were given a daily alcohol dose of 220 grams. Even though it was extreme, it clearly showed the strong link between alcohol and testosterone.
Why Alcohol Increases Testosterone Breakdown
In an article published in the Journal Science, it was mentioned that the rate of breakdown of testosterone in the liver depends on an enzyme called testosterone reductase. Alcohol increases the activity of this enzyme. This increases the breakdown activity of testosterone in the liver.
How Drinking Shuts Down Testosterone Production
Alcohol is broken down to acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is rapidly converted to acetate by other enzymes and is eventually metabolized to carbon dioxide and water.
Although the liver is the primary site for breakdown of alcohol, the testes also possesses the necessary enzymes. This ability of the testes to breakdown alcohol to acetaldehyde is documented in articles published in the Alcoholism and Chemical Pathology and Pharmacology. Apparently, the enzymes that help breakdown alcohol are also required for testosterone production. In the presence of alcohol, these enzymes in the testes are diverted to alcohol breakdown and not help testosterone production. This leads to a reduction in testosterone levels over time.
Drinking Releases Cortisol That Suppresses Testosterone
According to studies in Journal Alcohol and in Bone Journal, drinking resulted in higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. It lasted for 4 hours after the first drink and remained elevated for 24 hours. Cortisol acts directly on cells in the testes to inhibit the production and release of testosterone.
Stress hormones in our bodies help us during panic situations or “fight or flight” situations. In such conditions, the body shuts off the reproductive system by suppressing testosterone to channel blood into the muscles.
This helps someone flee from an oncoming tiger and I am sure that reproduction is the last thing on one’s mind in such a situation. Testosterone levels will stay suppressed as long as cortisol levels are elevated.
Why is it That Some People Drink But Still Have a Respectable Physique
As the research has shown, alcohol affects everyone. Every male testes has the ability to breakdown alcohol. Drinking will suppress testosterone production. There will be those who will be able to lose fat and build muscles while drinking. But these same people can achieve more without drinking. Those who may have reached a plateau in their weight loss or muscle-building efforts should take a step back to examine if alcohol is having a negative effect
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